Shortly after receiving final regulatory approval to launch a new lung transplant program, NYU Langone Health surgeons successfully performed the institution’s first procedure, giving two new lungs-;and a new lease on life-;to a Brooklyn woman with a complicated form of pulmonary fibrosis.
The surgery on Wanda Cepeda, 48, took place on Saturday, February 10, under the auspices of the NYU Langone Transplant Institute-;and just weeks after the Institute performed its first-ever heart transplant. The success of these recent cases further signals NYU Langone’s expanded capabilities to address the most complex and challenging transplant cases. The new lung transplant program is led by medical director Luis Angel, MD, professor in the Departments of Medicine and Cardiothoracic Surgery, and surgical director Zachary Kon, MD, assistant professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
About the Patient and the Surgery
Cepeda was diagnosed in 2015 with pulmonary fibrosis caused by a rare hereditary disorder, Hermansky-Pudlak Syndrome, which is characterized by bleeding diathesis, and which can lead to prolonged and excessive hemorrhage after injury or surgery-;making Cepeda’s bilateral lung transplant a particular challenge. Her respiratory function had deteriorated to the point that she relied on an oxygen tank to breathe and a scooter to mobilize.
Because of her deteriorating condition and bleeding risk, other regional medical centers would not add Cepeda to their transplant waiting list. Her pulmonologist then referred her in December of last year to Dr. Angel, who, along with Dr. Kon, agreed to take on her case.
“I had been fighting this disease for years, trying to stay healthy for my husband and our two daughters, but I was losing hope,” says Cepeda. “Dr. Angel was the first to say he wouldn’t turn me away. I’m so grateful for him and Dr. Kon-;my ‘dream team’-;for allowing me to hope again.”
“When we met with Mrs. Cepeda, we saw a person with a strong will to live, and a lot to live for, and we pledged to do all we could to find her the lungs she needed to get back to a healthy life with her family,” says Dr. Angel. “Her case, while difficult, is emblematic of the high-level individualized care and treatment we provide to all our patients.”
Cepeda was listed by NYU Langone on the national organ registry the first week of February. Shortly thereafter, a match was identified by the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), the independent, not-for-profit organization contracted by the federal government to oversee organ transplantation across the country. Nader Moazami, MD, professor in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and surgical director of heart transplantation at NYU Langone, and Kazuhiro Hisamoto, MD, clinical instructor of cardiothoracic surgery, traveled to Maryland to evaluate and procure the donor lungs.
Dr. Kon, along with Deane Smith, MD, assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, performed the bilateral transplant using a less invasive approach that avoids splitting the sternum-;and gave Cepeda two healthy lungs. The minimally invasive procedure may allow for shorter recovery times for lung transplant patients.
“The Transplant Institute extends our thanks to the entire team, including our advanced practice providers, nurses, residents, and specialists from Rusk Rehabilitation who have helped Mrs. Cepeda along the road to recovery,” says Dr. Kon. “We look forward to building off the success of our first lung transplant, as we remain committed to providing world-class, personalized care for every patient.”